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National Parks Being Lobbied To Do Away With Bottled Water, Install Filling Stations


A lobbying effort is under way to get more national parks to phase-out bottled water in favor of reusable water bottles and water-filling stations, such as this one at Arches National Park. Kurt Repanshek photo.

It's been more than a year since bottled water and corporate America collided at Grand Canyon National Park, and the push continues to get more national parks to phase out packaged water in favor of fresh tap water and refillable bottles.

Next week National Park Service officials at Yosemite and Mount Rainier national parks, Independence Hall National Historical Park, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area will be presented with over-sized postcards urging them to phase out disposable water bottles.

At Corporate Accountability International, a non-profit that works to encourage cleaner environmental habits, officials intend to make March 27 a "national day of action ... in a heated battle between those who are fighting to get billions of plastic bottles out of our waste stream, and Coca-Cola (owner of Dasani), who is throwing hurdles in the way of those parks that want to become bottled water free."

Coca-Cola rose to the limelight back in November 2011 when an email trail seemed to indicate the beverage maker was pressuring the National Park Foundation to urge the Park Service not to ban disposable water bottles at Grand Canyon National Park. At the time, Park Service officials said they weren't bowing to corporate pressure but simply conducting due diligence on the impacts of such a ban. For instance, they said at the time, how might the safety of visitors to Southwestern parks such as the Grand Canyon, Arches, and Canyonlands be impacted by a ban?

Ultimately, Grand Canyon officials, who had installed water filling stations early in 2011, were able to phase-out bottled water and put to use filling stations they had installed

Kristin Urquiza, who oversees the "Outside the Bottle and Public Works Compaign" for Corporate Accountability International, says more parks need to follow Zion, Hawaii Volcanoes, and Grand Canyon national parks in phasing out the sale of disposable water bottles.

At the same time, she was critical of an extensive memorandum (attached below) Park Service Director Jon Jarvis sent out to his superintendents in the wake of the Grand Canyon uproar that directed the steps they would need to take to phase-out bottled water. That memo called for superintendents to, among other things, review the amount of waste that could be eliminated from their park; consider the costs of installing and maintaining water filling stations for visitors; review the resulting impact on concessionaire and cooperative association revenues, and; consult with the Park Service's Public Health Office.

Then, too, they must consider "contractual implications" to concessionaires, the cost and availability of BPA-free reusable containers, and signage so visitors can find water filling stations. Also, they need to take into consideration safety considerations for visitors who might resort to drinking water "from surface water sources with potential exposure to disease" or who neglect to carry enough water with them on hikes.

"That is a clear indication of how Coke, stepping in, really is putting pressure on the Park Service to make it much more difficult for additional parks to follow suit," maintained Ms. Urquiza during a phone conservation. "Coke and the other bottlers, Nestle and Pepsi, there were several conference calls that were organized with Park Service employees and representatives from the big bottlers, asking them to put a hiatus on additional bans, and really working to stop this from happening in additional places."

To get more parks to phase-out bottled water, the non-profit has been working with stakeholders in and out of national parks, including concessionaires, "to help give Park Service (superintendents) the support they need to really move forward on implementing a 'bottled-water-free' policy in their parks," she said.

While none of the four parks has given "firm commitments" to moving forward with a ban, said Ms. Urquiza, talks have been ongoing to examine the feasibility of such a ban.

"The real exciting feedback that we've been getting is that water in the parks is an incredibly important issue for superintendents," she said. "They want to figure out how to minimize the amount of waste, to promote public water."

The organization plans to organize efforts this fall in Washington, D.C., to lobby the Park Service to hold firm to its original plan of having refillable water stations in 75 percent of park visitor centers by 2016, while encouraging parks to discontinue the sale of disposable bottled water.

On March 27, next Wednesday, the non-profit hopes superintendents at Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Independence Hall, and Golden Gate will commit to moving forward with a ban of disposable water bottles. "Our hope is that the superintendents can make a public commitment to implementing bottled-water-free policies," Ms. Urquiza said. "We're really hopeful, and see this as a win-win for parks.

"... At the end of the day, it's really sending the wrong message for our national parks to be promoting bottled water," she added.

At least one reusable bottlemaker, Vapur, has been talking with national parks about installing water-filling stations for visitors. Company officials, however, have declined to discuss what progress they're making.


No problem ...the discussion does tend to wander at times on the best of topics :-)

And, it's useful to remind readers there are a variety of perceptions about the budget situation.

Sorry I realize now my last post was sloppy writing and poor board etiquette on my part. I was quoting random online commenters from various news articles to make a point. Those were not my own opinions.

Another way to appreciate Ecbuck and level of discussion maintained by the staff of the blog is to read comments posted on public news stories about cuts in the NPS. It makes it clear that the voices of dissent on this site are perfectly reasonable. I had posted some examples but was it was pointed out to me that they brought the discussion way too far off topic. I left the following quote so the next post still makes sense:
"When will the media tell the truth. There are no cuts. It is only a reduced increase in funding."

The previous comment is a bit off the topic of water bottles, but it does deserve a response.

Although some in the media are fond of saying, "There are no cuts, it is only a reduced increase in funding," that is simply not true in terms of the amount available for most if not all individual park operations.

There was an accurate summary of the budget topic in another thread earlier this month :

"Submitted by Lost Heritage on March 12, 2013 - 7:46pm. If you look at the total base operating budget of the individual parks, it went down by $23.677 million between FY 2011 and FY 2012. (NPS 2013 Greenbook page ONPS-121) Also, all the new historic parks that congress and the president throw at NPS without increasing the budget also eat into the invidual parks' operating budgets. For example in FY 2012, the new baby park Fort Monroe took $350,000 away from the rest of the parks."

And... those decreases don't reflect cuts from the sequester or the additional cuts in the recently approved funding for the rest of FY13 .

For a good "big picture" view of how many parks are faring, see another recent Traveler article about the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here's an excerpt:

The Parkway Superintendent "explained the Parkway’s budget situation with a look at recent cuts and those over the years. “The fact is, half of our field maintenance staff is gone. Twenty-five percent of our law enforcement ranger jobs are now vacant. The main reason for that is we have a hiring freeze and can't fill those jobs.”

“If you look at maintenance, the sequester is just one issue," he says. "The bigger issue is what’s happened over time. We’ve lost more than 25% of our total staff over the last ten years or so—and the sequester comes on top of that. ...the story isn’t just the current cut but what’s been happening for years.”

“Despite the cuts,” Francis says, “we will still have as many visitors, we will still have as many assets to maintain—just a far smaller staff.”

Yes, some seemingly less critical activities are being tossed around as examples of the "trivial impacts" of the sequester, but the overall budget picture for parks is serious.

I don't want this site to become an echo chamber. Debate of opposing viewpoints is always a good thing.

Ignoring someone is one thing, banning them is something else. I see you're a new reader Scott. Go back and read some of PJ's articles, Lee or RickB's comments or some of the other commentors. Mr. Buck is no more derisive, unfair, offensive or accusatory than anyone else. I think he does make a lot of folks uncomfortable because he refuses to allow them to argue their emotional case without the use of supporting facts. I think he makes this site something other than a mutual admiration society for the NPS and some of it's more emotional followers.

While I agree with Mtnliving and others about ignoring ecbuck (notice I have not responded to his rude and inane ramblings), I've also been lurking on this site long enough to wonder why the site moderators have not banned him/her. You shouldn't ban somebody simply for being difficult or challenging, but ecbuck's tone is so frequently derisive, unfair, offensive, and accusatory that it has gone beyond acceptable use.

C'mon NPT guys - please consider this. Thanks.

I just remembered a time long, long ago when I was a college geology student helping to survey the Blackfoot Glacier in Glacier National Park. We had been drinking from a small mountain stream of pure, glistening, crystal clear glacial water for about a week and a half. Just the kind of place the bottled water ads frequently show us as they extol the inspiring and unequaled purity of their product. Just like the mountain peaks and clear springs on the labels.

It was wonderful water. Tasted just great. So pure . . . . .

Until one day one of our crew wandered about fifty yards upstream and discovered a very dead mountain goat in the middle of the stream.

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